Interview questions and structured interviewing
Username: Password:

Standard Interview Q & A

You can never be quite sure how interview questions will be phrased, and no matter how hard you prepare you'll have to think on your feet and find something sensible to say when you get asked something you weren't expecting. However, you can greatly calm your nerves and prepare yourself if you anticipate the questions you're most likely to be asked.

At the heart of every interview are three questions:

  1. Why should we employ you?
  2. What interests you about the job?
  3. Why are you applying to this company?

As a rough guideline, you can expect interviewers to want to talk about your life, the job and the company. These questions should not be seen as a test to see if you're good enough, but as an opportunity to demonstrate that you have the qualities relevant to the job and the company. Think about how you'd answer any of the following questions (but don't learn answers off by heart), and you should be well on the way to impressing your future employer.

Typical Questions

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why did you study ... at university?
  • What did you find interesting about the course?
  • What did you learn at university that you can bring to this job?
  • What did you do in your spare time?
  • Give an example of a time when you handled a major crisis or problem.
  • Would you say you were a follower or a leader?
  • What do you consider your strengths/weaknesses?
  • What are your main achievements to date?
  • Have you ever had a position of responsibility?
  • Give an example of a time when you showed initiative.
  • What did you gain from your work experience/vacation employment?
  • How do you manage your time?
  • How well do you work under pressure? Give examples.
  • What's the biggest challenge you've ever had? What action did you take?
  • What attracts you to a career in ...?
  • What makes you the best person for the job?
  • Where do you expect to be in five years' time?
  • What do you think makes a good employer?
  • Why do you want to work for this company?
  • What do you know about this company?
  • What can you contribute to this company?
  • Have you ever had a bad experience with an employer?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • Are you flexible to move/travel?
  • Are you applying for other jobs?
  • Have you any questions to ask me?

Finding the right answers

The belief behind the interview process is that past performance is the best guide to future success. An employer will choose criteria that you must fulfil and the interview is the chance to prove that you possess them. Such criteria will be different for each job, but examples would be drive and initiative, influencing skills, personal qualities, analytical skills, flexibility, technical skills and organisational skills. Always back up your answers with one or two examples from your life.

Here are some guidelines to answering those tough questions and what they really mean.

  • Would you say you were a follower or a leader?
    Describe aspects of both - how you are capable of following directions and realise the importance of listening well and being part of a team effort, but you can also demonstrate leadership skills.

  • What do you consider your strengths/weaknesses?
    Highlight several strengths you believe are relevant to the company and the job, but only one weakness. This weakness should not be closely related to the position for which you are being interviewed or it could be a technical skill that you can easily learn.

  • How well do you work under pressure?
    Emphasise that you work as well under pressure as you do at any other time but that you prioritise tasks so that your workload is manageable.

  • How would you rate yourself from 1-10?
    This question has a high discomfort factor and is better answered indirectly. Do not give a definite number. If you rate yourself as only a 7 they will question your ability and your confidence, if you say a 10 they will think you are arrogant with no room for growth or the right attitude to learn. Instead imply that you will strive to reach a 10.

  • Have you ever had a bad experience with an employer?
    This is to test whether you can be discreet and tactful. Never talk negatively about a former employer even if you hated the sight of each other. Try to explain methods you use to deal with difficult people and emphasise the importance of flexibility, perseverance and good communication.

  • Are you applying to other jobs?
    You need to show that you are sufficiently interested in that particular industry or field of work and that you have not just been applying for any job with 'graduate' in its description, so only mention jobs that are closely related to the one you're at an interview for. You should also demonstrate a particular interest in and commitment to that company.